Pakistan selectors sprung a surprise Friday by resting regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and five key players for the five-match one-day series against Australia this month.
While chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq stressed that resting Sarfraz was a unanimous decision, media reports blasted the move, suggesting Sarfraz did not want to miss all five matches.
Apart from Sarfraz, opener Fakhar Zaman, batsman Babar Azam, spinner Shadab Khan and fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi will also be rested.
Inzamam said the decision was aimed at freshening up the squad for the 2019 World Cup, starting in England in May.
“We have the World Cup as our focus and since the team is playing non-stop cricket we are resting some players, including captain Sarfraz, as we want the players to be fresh for the mega event,” he said at a press conference.
Shoaib Malik will lead the side for the matches to be played in Sharjah on March 22 and 24, Abu Dhabi on March 27, and Dubai on March 29 and 31.
Another batsman, Mohammad Hafeez, was not considered as he is recovering from thumb surgery.
Maverick batsman Umar Akmal, who played the last of his 116 one-day internationals against Australia more than two years ago, was recalled.
He was sent back home from the Champions Trophy in England in 2017 after failing a fitness test.
The squad also has uncapped 31-year-old batsman Abid Ali and rookie fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain.
“Hasnain has been identified as one of the fast bowlers for the future,” said Inzamam of the fast bowler, currently playing for Quetta in the Pakistan Super League.
“The 18-year-old has not only bowled with pace, regularly clocking 145 kmh (90 mph), he has shown tremendous control with the ball,” he added.
Test specialists Yasir Shah and Mohammad Abbas are also included in the squad. Abbas has never played a one-day international before.
SQUAD: Shoaib Malik (captain), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah